The factory apprentice school of the Warner and Swasey Company and New York Central Railroad type possesses many advantages over any kind of continuation instruction carried on outside of the plants where the boys are employed. A better correlation between the class and shop work is possible together with a more personal relation between teacher and pupils than is usually found when the pupils are drawn from a number of different establishments. It must be admitted, however, that this method of training apprentices is not feasible except in very large plants, as in small classes the teaching cost becomes prohibitive. There is little probability that it will ever be adopted by enough employers to take care of more than an insignificant proportion of the boys who enter the skilled trades.
The results obtained, here and in other cities, through cooeperative schemes, such as the Y.M.C.A. continuation school, are in the main disappointing. Their failure to reach more than a few of the boys who need trade-extension training is due partly to the fact that they operate under a condition that is fundamentally unjust. One employer interviewed during the survey stated the case very clearly: “I can see no good reason why I should make pecuniary sacrifices for the benefit of my competitors. Very few of my apprentices remain until the end of their term, because by the time they have completed their second year other firms which make no effort to train their quota of skilled workmen for the trade steal them away from me. Any plan for the training of apprentices which does not apportion the burden among the different establishments in direct proportion to the number of men they have, simply penalizes those public-spirited employers who participate in it.”
The years between 15 and 18 are among the most important in the life of the young worker. If left to his own devices during this period, he is very likely to lose much of vocational value of his earlier education, because he does not grasp the relation which the knowledge he acquired in school bears to his daily work. As a result the problem of supplementary instruction at a later age, when he wakes up to his need for it, becomes much more difficult than if trade-extension training had been taken up at once when he entered employment.
The vocational interests of young workers and the social interests of the community are both opposed to the current practice of “graduating” boys from the public schools at the ages of 15 or 16 and then losing sight of them. The fact that the large number who go into industrial occupations will not or cannot remain in school beyond these ages does not absolve the school system from further responsibility for their educational future. There should not be a complete severance between the boy and the school until he has reached a relatively mature age. In other words, the school system should maintain, as long as possible, such a relation with him as will help to round out his education and lead him to continue it after reaching manhood.